Dungeon Maker (Nintendo DS) Review

By Karn Spydar Lee Bianco 19.11.2008 2

Review for Dungeon Maker on Nintendo DS

As its name suggests, Dungeon Maker (known as Master of the Monster Lair in the U.S.) puts a unique spin on the dungeon crawling genre by allowing players to design the dungeon they will be plundering. It's a novel concept, even if it's not an entirely new one (see Dungeon Keeper for a somewhat similar premise). But can it deliver an engrossing experience, or is Dungeon Maker doomed to be as frustrating as attempting to dig a real-life underground dungeon with nothing but a shovel in hand?

The game begins as a 12-year-old boy, recently graduated from school and is search of a career, stumbles upon a magic talking shovel. After a few discussions with said shovel and the town mayor, the player-named boy/hero sets to work on pursuing a career as a dungeon maker in order to promote world peace by killing monsters, all the while improving tourism in his home town. It's a bare bones plot at best that, despite the stakes being gradually raised, never provides more than gentle background noise for the main action. Character interactions are also limited, providing little more than occasionally witty banter reminiscent of a children's cartoon. Thankfully, the game doesn't take itself remotely seriously and rarely feels overbearing, allowing you to focus on the task at hand: dungeon making.

The process of constructing a dungeon involves digging corridors and positioning various rooms in order to attract monsters which arrive during the night. Both of these actions eat away at your shovel's MP, which starts at a painfully low number that results in a period of frustratingly brief trips into the dungeon, but eventually gets upgraded to a more respectable figure that allows you to perform tens of actions in quick succession. Each and every action can be undone, so there's no need to panic about creating the perfect layout, but it does help to have some sort of plan from the off. Each room attracts a single monster, so battling multiple opponent at once (to improve the odds of finding an item) requires that rooms be arranged with their entrances facing a shared location upon which two or three foes can converge.

Beyond a few semi-strategic choices - whether to place rooms that attract weaker opponents with those that attract stronger ones to avoid overwhelming fights, for example - dungeon creation in Dungeon Maker is an extremely lightweight affair that isn't particularly rewarding. To make matters worse, the game doesn't feature any touch screen support whatsoever. Even though placing rooms and creating corridors is sufficiently well implemented with a button-based control scheme, both could almost certainly have been made more fluid with a nice overhead, touch-based deployment system. Despite it's name, though, Dungeon Maker is still heavily reliant on standard turn-based battles which will actually eat up the majority of your time.

Screenshot for Dungeon Maker on Nintendo DS

Unfortunately, said battles are no more exciting than dungeon making. Taking place from a first-person perspective similar to that used by Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker and its ilk, battles stick to the tried and tested attack/defend/item/magic system. One of the game's more interesting features, however, is the inclusion of a slime-based companion that can mimic the attributes of monsters it comes into contact with. Mimicking the head of a magic-wielding foe allows the slime to utilise that foe's spells in future battles, while mimicking its body might allow the slime to wear more advanced armour. It's an intriguing way to replace standard experience-based levelling, and it's more rewarding than the food-based levelling system utilised by other party members.

The food-based method of levelling involves collecting the meat of deceased monsters and combining it with other ingredients (purchased in the town) to create meals that boost stats but can only be eaten once per day (after a trip into the dungeon). The system has two problems, though. Firstly, it can be exploited by purchasing a bulk load of food and constantly rushing in and out of the dungeon to eat meals. While it's not immediately possible to improve every stat in this manner, it's enough to skew character development quite significantly. Secondly: monsters don't drop food nearly often enough to create the best meals, which leads us to Dungeon Maker's biggest problem: repetition.

In order to collect enough money, items and food to progress through the game, you're going to need to endure hours and hours of battling the same monsters over and over again. You can mix things up by reorganising your dungeon to attract a variety of monsters to each floor, but the end result is still the same: tedious repetition. How much repetition is too much repetition? How about 20-30 hours for the main adventure and potentially the same amount again for the remaining bonus floors? 30+ hours of gameplay for a role-playing game is generally a given, and the inclusion of dungeon building features should have made Dungeon Maker even more re-playable, but the fact is it wears out its welcome far too quickly and provides little motivation to see things through to their conclusion.

Screenshot for Dungeon Maker on Nintendo DS

Cubed3 Rating

6/10
Rated 6 out of 10

Good

Dungeon Maker is chock-full of interesting ideas, including the promise of allowing players to construct the very dungeon they will soon be scavenging, and an intriguing replacement for the standard experience-based levelling system. Unfortunately, these ideas are bogged down by overly simplistic gameplay mechanics and a reliance on excessive repetition and grinding that will likely become unbearably tedious for many players long before the game is officially over.

Also known as

Master of the Monster Lair

Developer

Atlus

Publisher

Rising Star

Genre

Turn Based RPG

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  6/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date TBA   

Comments

Love the idea of making dungeons, sounds neat. Shame it's let down by the gameplay itself. Could lead to a decent sequel from the sounds of things though.

Cubed3 Admin/Founder & Designer

I like the building a dungeon part, it reminds me of a Tower Defense Game(don't ask me why).

Super Duper Ultra Fun Time!

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